Our concerns in the search for a new UI president



Former University of Iowa President Sally Mason retired earlier this year, and the state Board of Regents is wasting no time in finding her replacement. The current interim president of the UI, Jean Robillard, is also the vice president for Medical Affairs at the university. But his time running the affairs of the UI could quickly come to an end, as the regents plan to select a new president on Sept. 3.

A series of forums featuring the four final candidates have been underway since Aug. 27. The names of the candidates have been announced 24 hours before their forums, in which faculty and students were invited to hear about the candidates’ vision for the university and ask questions. The final forum will take place on Tuesday, leaving less than 48 hours for the regents’ deliberation.

It’s understandable that the governing body of Iowa’s state universities seeks to fill Mason’s vacant seat as soon as possible. More than just overseeing the UI’s academic mission, the next president will need to spend time courting donations and directing fundraising efforts, which are vital for the school. In this case, time is money.

Additionally, as the academic semester gets underway, a drawn-out presidential selection would mean fewer remaining weeks for the eventual leader to get acquainted with the UI’s faculty and various programs.

However, these obviously aren’t the only concerns that the regents should keep in mind. With a position as important as university president, giving time and information to allow for deliberation should be a priority in the process. The short timeframe of the presidential search has led some to call this process into question.

Several UI faculty members have raised concerns about the lack of information released on the potential candidates throughout the selection process. And indeed, at the time of this publication, one of the candidates for UI president is still unknown, with only three days until the regents convene to select a president.

With such little time available, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board can only outline the qualities that we hope to see in a future president and hope that one of these candidates can meet them.

It goes without saying that the next UI leader needs to maintain the quality of the university’s academics. But with tightening budgets for education across the board, the most valuable quality for the incoming president will be how he or she can fulfill this academic mission without raising costs for students.

Another vital quality for the incoming president will be that he or she places a greater emphasis on transparency in communication to students. As an example, Mason’s six-point plan on sexual assault only came about after a vocal campus backlash to an increased rise in the number of sexual assaults. A future UI president should be proactive, not reactive, in communication with the community about what challenges the university faces and how he or she plans to overcome them. And though it may be idealistic, we want to see a greater focus on complete and honest communication, not just strategic communication.

Though this might be self-serving, we hope that includes reinstating the tradition of a monthly Q&A with The Daily Iowan, in the interest of providing the UI’s students and faculty with some insight into the decision making process at the highest level of this university.

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